Aston Villa vs Wolves result: Five things Villa must do to avoid relegation from Premier League

Villa have six games left to save themselves and earn another season in the top flight after defeat by Wolves

Karl Matchett
Saturday 27 June 2020 14:44
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Aston Villa suffered defeat against Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday.

Leander Dendoncker scored the only goal to boost Wolves’ own European prospects.

But it leaves Dean Smith’s side still one point from safety, while they’ll have played one game more after this weekend than rivals Bournemouth and West Ham.

There are still half a dozen matches left to earn the points necessary to avoid the drop, with several clubs level on points near the bottom, leaving hope for the Villa Park club.

Here are five things Aston Villa must do over the final month of the season to ensure they get another year in the Premier League.

Individual errors at the back

Leander Dendoncker celebrates after putting Wolves ahead

Smith has opted to go with Orjan Nyland over Pepe Reina in goal since the restart, but it hasn’t exactly been a cut-and-dried success.

Confidence and consistency is so important on the players down the spine at this stage and Nyland has been one who has been particularly culpable to committing errors.

Twice he has got away with it: ‘saving’ the ball behind the line against Sheffield United, not spotted by goal-line technology, and against Wolves with a slippery-grasped throw-out straight to Diogo Jota, who blasted his shot over.

But the goalkeeper isn’t the only one. Tyrone Mings has had the odd moment of poor decision-making and giving the ball away in midfield has been a problem all season.

Those avoidable mistakes have to be cut out, in turn reducing the chances of Villa conceding unnecessary goals and losing precious points.

Increased clinical edge

It was a sign of a positive approach to see Smith start both Mbwana Samatta and Keinan Davis against Wolves, pairing two strikers even if at times one was very much wider, rather than two through the middle.

Villa’s build-up play has been decent at times in each of their games, but lacking a regular end product with the final pass or shot.

That’s shown with their shots on target: six, four and two in their first three matches back, then only one against Wolves—with a better expected goals rate than their opponents in all four games.

But they have taken just two draws from that run.

With that in mind, Smith may be well-served by simply backing one—or both—of his strikers to play every game and work themselves back into form, telling Samatta, perhaps, that he’s a guaranteed starter and to simply go out and do whatever is needed to find scoring form.

Whether it’s the strikers, the set plays and sending defenders up or with Grealish providing the magic, all of Villa’s games have been close-fought and settled by the odd goal so they simply must be more clinical when the chances fall their way.

Solve the Grealish conundrum

Jack Grealish protects the ball against Ruben Neves

Against Wolves, Jack Grealish played a far more central role than usual, in behind the attack, presumably with the intention of him having space in front of the back three to run at the defence and pick his passes into the danger area.

In practice, he actually got on the ball far more when he drifted into the channel, between wide Wolves centre-back and wing-back.

The link-up between Grealish, Samatta and Davis was minimal at best—something which must be quickly remedied.

While it’s fine to move the skipper about within the tactical framework of the team, he’s clearly central to their ability to create chances and generally positive moments, and he hasn’t yet been on top form or receiving the ball quickly enough to turn and worry the opposition.

Keep the faith

An obvious one, yet a very difficult one the closer it gets to the end of the season—particularly given their upcoming games.

Villa now face Liverpool at Anfield and host Manchester United at Villa Park in their next two games, very difficult fixtures at any point but perhaps more so now: the Reds will want to put on a show after becoming Premier League champions, while United have all their top players back fit and in the team and are pushing hard for Europe.

But Villa, regardless of the results in these two games, must keep belief in their approach and their players. They must be able to put a heavy defeat out of their minds, if it occurs.

They then face the season run-in against Crystal Palace, Everton and Arsenal—all are winnable, given those sides’ inconsistency and the fact they will basically be playing for nothing.

Villa must keep their confidence and trust in the players for that run of games, where points could easily be picked up.

Beat West Ham on the final day

Ahmed Elmohamady (centre) celebrates bringing Aston Villa level

It might well be a case of staying in the chase until the very last day—then earning a straight shoot-out against West Ham United to stay up.

Villa head to the Hammers on 26 July and, with only one point between the teams as it stands, it’s entirely possible that it’ll be a case of winner-takes-all in this 90 minutes.

David Moyes’ side have better firepower and more options than Villa, yet haven’t been able to gel them so far—or keep goals out at the other end.

It might come back to two of those earlier points—trust in the methods and giving the strikers the chances to take—needing to be perfect on the final day in east London.

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